Rover Curiosity Tweaks its Final Mars Approach

//

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, also known as “Curiosity,” tweaked its flight path early Sunday to home in on its landing site inside Gale Crater. Touchdown is scheduled for 1:31 a.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 6.

TUNE IN: On Monday, August 6 at 10PM E/P, Science Channel will premier “Mars Landing 2012: The New Search For Life,” documenting the historic landing of Curiosity.

The six-second thruster firing shifted the spot where MSL will hit the Martian atmosphere by 13 miles. The goal is to settle the car-sized rover in a 12-mile by 4-mile patch of real estate next to Mount Sharp, which rises from the center of the crater. The three-mile-high mountain is the reason why scientists chose Gale Crater as Curiosity’s landing site.

The mound seems to be made of layers of sediments. By studying the layers from the ground up, Curiosity may be able to unlock the long-standing mystery about whether the planet has or ever had the right ingredients and environmental conditions to support life.

VIDEO: Seven Minutes of Terror for Mars Rover Curiosity

Sunday’s course correction was the fourth, and possibly final, since launch last November.

Image: Artist’s concept of Mars Science Laboratory en-route to the red planet. The rover is tucked inside the disc-shaped cruise stage, left, and attached to a protective aeroshell. Credit: NASA